Graduation season is behind us.
No, no, I didn’t mean that. Of course I didn’t. Well, only kinda, maybe.
I don’t know about you, but I received many invitations to graduations this spring/summer. Almost all were fairly close in proximity. Easy to get to.
Gifts were delivered but my butt didn’t reach those seats. I’d pretty much rather have my fingertips cut off than soldier through a graduation ceremony (I mean, wouldn’t you?).
But one just required my presence. And of course, it was a state away.
And also, as these things happen, my pet-sitter sister could do the mid-day puppy run, but couldn’t spend the night.
Where there’s a will there’s a way, as my mom liked to say.
But my nephew Jude was graduating high school in Albuquerque, at 9:30 AM, and by hook or by crook, I was gonna be there.
Up at 2 AM I was, driving by 4 to DFW airport (the one furthest away, as the closer airport couldn’t get me there in time) to get through security, board the plane, get to Albuquerque by 8 so the car could get me to the school by 9.
Security, well, you know how it’s pretty tight these days on account of all the terroristic activity? Business folks surely face this all the time, with one-day turnarounds for meetings, etc. And surely they get the once-over as well. But never having done such a thing, I was fairly surprised at how seriously they took me.
Extra attention. Pat downs both ways. And geez—there I was in my cute long and flowing gauzy white skirt and wispy draping blouse, looking like a fairy queen out of a storybook. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I can’t imagine I looked much like a terrorista. Especially with those strappy little dreamsickle sandals that matched.
On that note, have you ever flown twice in one day? Amazing what it does for swelling feet. Those cute little strappy sandals would look like pieces of strained pipe cleaners dug into puffy flesh by 9 that night.
And timing was pretty crucial. One little glitch and the ceremony would go on without me. The nerve!
But all worked like the proverbial clock. As my chatty driver dropped me at the school, up came a nice man in a golf cart, offering a ride across campus to the site of the ceremony. New Mexico folks are just so accommodating!
Bosque is a small school, the class of ’17 being 64 in number. The faculty stay very involved with the students. The Headmaster, Billy, knows them all well. I’ve met many of them over the years, and am always so impressed with their commitment. I know Billy, and consider his wife, Betul, a friend and kindred spirit.
Fine folks. Gifted kids. A beautiful New Mexico spring morning. All the ingredients in place for a pretty ceremony.
Still, I was unprepared.
How many graduations have you sat through, praying fervently that they would just end or you’d go to your blessed reward, whichever came first?
I must confess, my expectations languished in the low brackish swamps . . .
But under an expansive grove of sprawling cottonwood trees, a soft breeze billowing wisps of white puffs through the delightfully dry air, I found Suzanne first thing. Ah, do I love my chosen sister! Her smile always makes my heart sing.
With hugs and laughter and joy and jokes, a large group of us took our seats as music began.
Twice the songs were performed by the choir, and ah, the voices of those kids. Their notes as pure and nuanced as the glistening sunlight dappling through the trees.
Then it went into funny. Lots of anecdotes about antics by the kids, told by teachers to many blushes and much tittering laughter. Then skits including faculty and students, as we were given a window into their daily world.
The Headmaster gave a personal talk, including his departing students in the vignettes.
It felt more like being at a Broadway play than a high school graduation.
The highlight, at least for me, was Jude’s dad, Dan, giving the commencement. I’ve talked about Dan before, having attended his consecration ceremony last summer. I’ve known him for decades, and of course, he’ll always be Dan to me, even though his title now is The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez, XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Yep, that Dan. The Bishop.
I’ve heard him teach (I can’t bring myself to say preach, as that never feels like what he’s doing) many times.
Gifted, he is.
His words to those kids, they hopefully internalized, to pull out in the dark times. His sentiments that day, I think of often. And hope the graduates do too.
“Write you story so that when you walk into the room will people feel expectation instead of apprehension. When you leave it they are inspired rather than relieved. Remember, it is your story. Voice your beliefs with clarity and authenticity while at the same time seek the good with those you disagree. Humanize and not demonize. We are in this together. If a person is being abused, neglected, marginalized or hurt by anything or anyone, stand with them. Act with love, and kindness. Then go to the pain and margins and pull everyone in. You will raise our collective humanity to a higher and deeper place. It is said that only the soul that ventilates the world with tenderness, kindness and love has the only chance of changing it. As for survival of the fittest, winner take all, revenge or retribution, I have spent far too many nights holding the hands of those taking their final breaths. They do not mean a damn thing. Only that every life truly has meaning and only, only love . . . Class of 2017, my love for you is great. This is your story. You know what you gotta do. Go. Succeed, do great things, make great discoveries. Create with passion and live all your dreams. While you are at it. Laugh. Be kind, tender and compassionate. Look for good in everything and everyone . . . May your story give hope, may you make one life breathe easier. May you make the world better because of you and in the process you will change the world. I bless you as you go forth to write your story. Go and make it a better place.”
Isn’t it funny how when you make an effort to do something you feel compelled to do, no matter the time and trouble to do so, that you’re the one who is blessed.
Those kids will change our world for the good. May Dan’s words ring in their hearts forever, as they will in mine. As they might in yours.
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.